Pietro vs. Barbossa, the final attack between two irreconcilable enemies
There are 90% of Colombians who don't look at X – formerly Twitter – and they probably still don't know that Colombia is going through a serious political storm at this point. On the social media network, recent days have witnessed a controversial battle calling into question the country's constitutional system. President Gustavo Petro used his preferred channel of communication to alert the world, in a message published in several languages - including Arabic – about an alleged plan organized by the Attorney General's Office to remove him from power. This is not the first time that the president has spoken of a coup against him, but in this second chapter, the estrangement between the executive and judicial powers has taken another step forward.
The voices calling for a reduction in tension have multiplied in the past hours, but the coming days will show whether the tension will continue to escalate or whether the tense calm that has been experienced since the first leftist government came to power a year and a half ago. The past has been restored from the country's modern history. On Thursday there are two dates that will define the week. On the other hand, the Supreme Court of Justice is meeting to elect the successor to the current Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa, whose term ends next Monday. On the other hand, the Education Union called for a march, supported by Pietro, in front of the court headquarters in Bogotá, as a form of pressure.
I ask all human rights organizations, progressive parties, and labor organizations in Colombia and the world to heed this complaint:
I heard prominent human rights activists talking about an institutional collapse in the case of an advisor…
-Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) February 2, 2024
On January 25, the 23 judges who make up the judiciary already tried to elect a new prosecutor from a shortlist sent by the president. None of the three proposed women received sufficient votes because 13 judges voted no, which generated a new dispute between Petro and the entity. The apparent animosity between the president and Barbosa, who was appointed by former President Ivan Duque, dates back to the last days of the election campaign and has not stopped escalating. The Attorney General has two opposing ideological biases and has attacked the government on several occasions in a form of dissent that has contributed to blurring the line of separation of powers.
For his part, Petro has always responded by fighting what he sees as a prosecutor's office operating outside the law. In recent months, he and Barbosa have tried to redirect the situation on several occasions, but the animosity between them is greater than their desire to display institutional balance. The clash spiraled out of control in recent days, when Barbossa was already heading toward the exit door. Petro believes that behind the decision of the Attorney General's Office to suspend Counselor Alvaro Leyva for three months – for declaring the passport tender invalid – and the Attorney General's Office to investigate the teachers' union's contribution of 500 million pesos to the charter campaign historically. In 2022, the intention of seizing power is hidden. A plan hatched by the Attorney General's Office with the assistance of the Attorney General's Office headed by former Secretary Duque to wipe it off the map.
The idea that the conservative elites who have always held power in Colombia want to put an end to it has been a persistent complaint by the president. For many analysts, this is a strategy to present himself as a victim in the face of the little political progress achieved by the so-called government of change, but in any case, the president does not lack precedents. In 2013, when he was mayor of Bogota, Pietro was dismissed by court decision and regained his position thanks to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which agreed with him. Years later, the Inter-American Court condemned the Colombian state for violating its political rights.
Analysis of current events and the best stories from Colombia, every week in your inbox
That fact, which contributed to consolidating his image as a leader of the left, remained engraved in his memory. His militant past and years spent in hiding and imprisonment earned him the rejection of a ruling class for decades, which did not take his presidential aspirations seriously. But his victory in 2022 ended that resistance in one fell swoop. Pietro came to the presidency accompanied by a huge wave of hope in most parts of the country, which led him to add moderate sectors and sectors with liberal and social democratic origins to his government. An unexpected political capital, but it disappeared within a few months. Some believe that the president's waist is small because of the diversity of opinions in his government. For others, because of the few political results of his term; For Petro, this is due to the enormous resistance that change generates in certain sectors of power.
Whether for some reasons, for other reasons, or all at once, the president believes that the specter of a coup is very close. Pietro gave his full support to Leyva in the face of his temporary suspension. The chancellor said on Monday that he would abide by the decision of the Attorney General's Office when the president appoints his successor, which has not happened so far. The Attorney General's Office has already spoken of “open contempt” on the part of both “attacking the rule of law, the Constitution and the law.” The issue of investigating teachers union campaign contributions, which Petro sees as a dark hand, is not new. The campaigns of his two predecessors – Duque and Juan Manuel Santos – were also the subject of investigations that were ultimately unsuccessful.
Until now, there are still few voices raised in response to the international ultimatum issued by the President. The government itself issued a statement on Monday that included support for the European Left Party, which brings together more than forty national left parties from different trends in Europe and is headquartered in Brussels, as the memorandum in which they showed “expressed its deep concern over the actions of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General and the Attorney General of Colombia.” , who show clear laxity with organized crime, instead placing constant obstacles in the actions of Colombia's democratically elected government. The Puebla Group, which brings together progressive Ibero-American leaders, also offered its support to the Colombian president.
As analyst Yolanda Ruiz explains, the court's appointment of a new prosecutor on Thursday should help normalize the situation. Failure to do so would place Deputy Prosecutor Martha Mancera, Barbosa Ward, in charge of the Prosecutor's Office on an interim basis. The outgoing Attorney General had himself alluded to his papers in his recent statements. “There is full support from the United States and the Department of Justice for the country’s Deputy Attorney General. Specifically, during the conversation we had, they were very calm. “It is in very good hands in the event that the Supreme Court gets additional time,” he said of the election of his successor.
The next chapters of this battle can be followed through the account of President X, the 10% of Colombians who use the social network. So far, Barbossa doesn't have a profile there, although Pietro thinks he found one last weekend. The president entered into controversy with a false narrative on behalf of the prosecutor, which, amid the gravity of the recriminations, turned the recent political conflagration in Colombia into a viral success.
Subscribe here To the EL PAÍS newsletter about Colombia and Here on the channel on WhatsAppAnd get all the keys to information about current events in the country.